According to reports from the Korea Herald, the Pantech Vega LTE-A smartphone has launched in South Korea—which, in partnership with the app BarTong, is the only phone to have fingerprint-authenticated mobile payments.
The fingerprint system inside the phone is made by Crucialtec, and seems to feature a traditional design much like many other commercially available fingerprint sensors. What makes the system unique is the BarTong app, which lets users pay for items in stores as if they were using cash—plus the fact that the user is positively identified by their fingerprint, rather than relying on a PIN code or signature. The company behind the mobile payment service, Danal, has also indicated they are planning to take the app overseas—including to the U.S. and into China.
We've heard of fingerprint-authenticated payments before, of course, and it does seem like a very promising tech. But what the new phone really makes us wonder about is Apple's future technology. The company has long been suspected to be planning to enter the mobile payments market, and has extensively patented in this area. Its Passbook app is suspected to be an early play to get users acquainted with the idea, and it has just released the new iBeacons system in iOS 7, which may be able to form part of a location-based payments service that ditches NFC in favor of Bluetooth. Meanwhile, the iPhone 5S has a high-resolution fingerprint sensor that is currently only used to unlock the phone and authenticate iTunes purchases...but Apple has hinted it will open the sensor up to third-party apps. Is Pantech's phone a little sample of what the iPhone has coming around the bend?